Project Management Institute

Marrakech, Morocco






Population: 33.8 million—58 percent of whom currently live in urban areas. That figure will likely reach 65 percent by 2012.

Area: 275,000 square miles (712,247 square kilometers)

Capital: Rabat

Largest city: Casablanca, with 3.6 million residents

Languages: Arabic is the official language, but most residents speak Darija, a mixture of Arabic, European and Berber languages. Widely taught in public schools and used in government and business, French is Morocco's third unofficial language. Spanish is spoken here also.

Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)

1 MAD = US$0.13

1 MAD = €0.09

1 MAD = ¥14.4

Economy: Morocco had a gross domestic product of $152.5 billion in 2006. Farming accounts for more than 17 percent of the country's economy, but that figure fluctuates with cyclical droughts.

Agriculture represents almost 40 percent of the jobs in Morocco, and in rural areas, it supplies the vast majority of employment.

By focusing on non-agricultural activities, Morocco hopes to establish an economic yearly growth rate of 5.6 percent between 2008 and 2012. Much of that boost will be fueled by industry, which is expected to post an overall growth rate of 7.3 percent, spurred by increases in telecommunications (9.1 percent), tourism (8.8 percent), transportation (7.4 percent) and construction (7.2 percent).

Sources: Oxford Business Group, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency


imgAs part of its efforts to reduce global poverty by promoting sustainable economic growth, the U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corp. announced Morocco will receive $697.5 million over five years to develop several projects. Those initiatives include:

Fruit Tree Productivity Project

Budget: $300.9 million

Goal: Stimulate Morocco's agricultural production by increasing irrigation efficiency and introducing drought-resistant commercial fruit trees

Target: An estimated 136,000 farm households in rural areas of northern, central and southern Morocco

Small-Scale Fisheries Project

Budget: $116.2 million

Goal: Emphasize the sustainable use of fish resources. Also modernize the way fish are caught, stored and marketed by constructing or upgrading fishery facilities in as many as 13 major ports.

Target: Approximately 24,000 small-scale fishers, boat owners, wholesale fish merchants and mobile fish vendors

The Artisan and Fes Medina Project

Budget: $111.9 million

Goal: Train 50,000 master artisans in new design and production methods, improve literacy education and vocational training, and help provide access to bank or micro-credit loans for modern kilns and pottery workshops. Also help attract more buyers of crafts—namely, tourists—by supporting the design and reconstruction of historic sites within the Fes medina.

Target: Approximately 20,000 low-income workers in the area

Overall Expected ROI: Boost Morocco's gross domestic product by approximately $118 million annually and directly benefit 600,000 families

With stunning architecture set against a backdrop of palm trees and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, the colorful appeal of Marrakech—complete with souks and snake charmers—has made it Morocco's main getaway for decades. From Sir Winston Churchill to well-heeled jetsetters, visitors have long gravitated to this historic crossroads between Europe and Africa. And that appeal is growing. Passenger traffic through Marrakech's airport is increasing at a rate of 35 percent per year, according to the Oxford Business Group's Emerging Morocco 2007 report.

More than ever before, the tourism industry here is booming—spawning an array of massive projects and an upgrade in project management skills.


Morocco's government has a keen interest in continuing the tourism trend. Over the next two years, it hopes to double the annual influx of people who visit (and spend) to 10 million. Dubbed 2010 Vision, the government's new program aims to create 600,000 new jobs and calls for tourism to account for about 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product by 2010.

With approximately 1 million residents, Marrakech is a key player in that effort. Last year, the government approved investment projects worth more than $2 billion around the city, according to Reuters.

But it's hard work creating places where visitors play, especially when they are increasingly discerning about amenities.

“Morocco's tourism numbers are just shooting through the roof,” says Jean AbiNader, managing director of the Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center, Washington, D.C., USA. “You soon move from people who are pulling their trailers behind them, to people who are looking for four- and five-star resorts.”

That has made the scope of projects in Morocco much more complex. “Traditionally, there were smaller projects with more cookie-cutter approaches,” Mr. AbiNader says. “If you're building a hotel, you know it will take six to eight months once you get the land and infrastructure. But when building something as complex as a resort with residential areas, commercial areas, recreational areas—all of those have a different time piece to them.”



Leila Haddaoui has had a front-row seat for much of Morocco's project management evolution. She serves as board member and director of tourism for MEDZ, a subsidiary of the government-owned Caisse de Depot et de Gestion. The Rabat, Morocco-based group helps develop urban, tourist and industrial zones across the country.


Tapping into the luxury travel trend, Groupe Alain Crenn is set to open the Samanah Country Club, which the French developer claims is the largest housing and tourism project in the area. Located about 8 kilometers (5.8 miles) south of Marrakech, the 704-acre (285-hectare) complex will include 580 villas and riads (traditional Moroccan houses with interior gardens). The site will also include three five-star hotels, a driving range, tennis courts and a plaza with a supermarket.

But the main attraction is the €16 million (US$23 million) golf course, which will be built with an eye on sustainability. According to the developer, water from the villas will be recycled and used for the site's plants and golf course.




The train ride between Marrakech and the northern port town of Tangiers has a reputation as a day-long, bumpy ordeal. But Morocco's largest trading partner, France, plans to help change that. Last October, French president Nicolas Sarkozy signed a deal to construct a high-speed railway to traverse the 310 miles (499 kilometers) between the two cities.

With stops at Rabat and Casablanca, the railway will whisk passengers to their destination at 125 miles per hour (201 kilometers per hour), cutting travel time between Marrakech and Tangiers from 11 hours to less than three.

The $2.84 billion project will be funded in part by three French railway companies: manufacturer Alstrom, operator SNCF and network owner Réseau Ferré de France.

The first section, from Tangiers to Kenitra, is slated for completion in 2013.


“Morocco is a country in the midst of growth and change,” she says. “Large infrastructure and urban projects are going on all across the kingdom.”

As those projects shift in size, new challenges arise for project management leaders.

“Projects are no longer single activities circumscribed by a precise problem, for which the environmental impact is relatively small,” Ms. Haddaoui says. For today's projects, “the impacts—urban, social, environmental and economic—are the real issues in a project's success.”

As a result, the qualities required for a project manager have shifted. “It is no longer enough to work sequentially,” she says. Now project leaders must work in a matrix, juggling the roles of facilitator and coordinator with the precise control of an orchestra conductor. In recent years, Ms. Haddaoui has noticed project managers expanding their skills, developing competencies in marketing, finance and negotiation.

“A project leader is no longer a technician, but must be a good coach for the team … and foresee the changes in the socioeconomic environment,” she says.

Indeed, the tourism surge—and the accompanying construction boom—has created some tension amidst the local population. With the proliferation of luxury resorts and swimming pools in Morocco's arid terrain, local farmers are already raising concerns about water supplies. By early 2007, five golf courses had been built in Marrakech, with 10 more awaiting approval. And there's much more in the works. Tamansourt, a new town under development outside the city, is expected to house 300,000 residents, according to Reuters.

Project leaders “must be especially innovative on environmental aspects—the management of water, environmental integration, waste management, new ways of conceiving spaces and construction in line with ecology,” Ms. Haddaoui says.

Project leaders should also play a role in safeguarding one of Morocco's biggest tourist draws: its rich architectural history that stretches back to the late 10th century.

“We must be especially innovative with respect to our architectural and building inheritance,” Ms. Haddaoui says. “We must reflect on the best way to integrate cultural and national identity facets into our projects.”

As general manager of the Bouregreg Valley Development Agency, Essakl Lemghari recognizes the impact of mega-projects on Morocco. His government agency in Rabat is responsible for the Bouregreg Valley project, a 10-year, multibillion dollar endeavor that will include new bridges, luxury hotels, a marina, and a 17.5-kilometer (11-mile) tramway between Rabat and Salé. Among the sustainability elements integrated in the project are plans for the reforestation of nearby quarries and the complete depollution of the Bouregreg River.

The changing business environment is moving the need for project management skills to the forefront.

“We have even noticed a change in students' attitudes with respect to majors, as well as managers who have to adapt their skills and knowledge,” Mr. Lemghari says.

And he adds the demand is “much more felt today in many fields such as public works, finance, hydraulics and environmental protection.”

Along with all those resort developments, Morocco is seeing a burst in demand for other types of projects. “Once you have tourists, you want to have highways,” Mr. AbiNader says. “And hotels need wireless or broadband, they need energy resources. So all of that has had a certain ripple effect throughout the Moroccan economy.”



All of this is making project management even more vital to achieving results.

“With the launch of many large-scale development projects that will change the Moroccan landscape—as well as the expansion of all the off-shoring activities—project managers are essential more than ever before,” Mr. Lemghari says.


Project management is not only maturing in Morocco—it's also becoming a multicultural discipline, thanks to increasing foreign direct investment in the country. In 2006, that investment climbed to $7.15 billion, with a total of 75 projects (mainly in the leisure tourism sector), according to the Oxford Business Group report.

Moroccans are absorbing different philosophies and best practices of project management from the investors themselves, whether it's a French, Spanish, Italian or North American company at the helm.


Morocco is looking to create one of the world's busiest ports—and it certainly has the location. Tangiers is on both the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and also benefits from the trade passing through the Strait of Gibraltar.

The Tangiers-Med port, located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Tangiers, initially opened in 2007 with a capacity of 3.5 million containers. By 2009, it will include a passengers' port. And by 2015, it's slated to operate at a full capacity of 8.5 million containers.

The government created Tangiers Mediterranean Special Agency to serve as the project manager for developing the port and surrounding areas. Designed to be a primary hub for shipments between Asia, the Middle East and the United States, Tangiers-Med is expected to draw as much as 30 percent from other Moroccan ports.





In Morocco, 19 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 2000—but the government thinks revamping the roads could pave the way to a better life. Motorway upgrades are long overdue. Only half of the county's 60,000 kilometers (37,300 miles) of road infrastructure have a tarred surface, according to the Oxford Business Group's Emerging Morocco 2007 report.

By 2015, the goal is for 80 percent of the population to have access to roads, versus 54 percent in 2005. To that end, Morocco has earmarked $4.4 million for constructing 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of roads by 2010.

In April 2007, the 145-kilometer (90-mile) Settat-Marrakech motorway officially opened for business. That marked the final stage of a larger infrastructure project: the 558-kilometer (347-mile) motorway from Tangiers to Marrakech, which reduces travel time between the two cities by at least three hours.



Morocco is answering the call for French-language IT help. In 2006, the country was serving more than 50 percent of the French-speaking offshore market, with 18,000 people working for 180 companies. The sector's value surged to £250 million (US$347 million) in 2006, from £3 million (US$4.2 million) in 2001, according to the Middle East Economic Digest.

Now, Morocco is poised for even more growth in call centers, back-office operations and other offshore IT services, thanks to outsourcing zones planned in five cities.

The first of these is Casashore, a $416 million (€218 million) “technopolis” program in Casablanca, Morocco. Launched in 2005, Casashore is a joint development between Rabat, the Grand Casablanca local authority and local investment company Caisse de Dépôts et de Gestion. The first businesses opened there in late 2007, in a complex that covers more than 53 hectares (131 acres) and includes more than 250,000 square meters (2.7 million square feet) of office space.

Construction of a similar technology park in Rabat is expected to begin in 2008. The government is making a $170 million (€115 million) investment in the center, which is expected to employ 700 people. It is a joint venture between Caisse de Dépôts et de Gestion and EDS.

Studies are being conducted for additional offshore centers in Marrakech, Fes and Tangiers.

The government hopes its offshoring efforts will contribute an additional MAD15 billion (€1.5 billion) to the gross domestic product by 2015, and create about 100,000 professional jobs.


A new rail project would extend Morocco's reach into Europe via a £10 billion (US$14.4 billion), 17-mile-long (27.3-kilometer-long) tunnel from Punta Paloma, Spain to Tangiers, Morocco. The two countries have agreed to the project in principle, and a study is under way to examine the feasibility of constructing a tunnel under the Strait of Gibraltar. Completion is slated for 2025.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the tunnel will be modeled on the Channel Tunnel but Lombardi Engineering Ltd., the Swiss engineering firm conducting the study, said the sea floor's depth and softer rock would make it a more complicated project.


Morocco devotes $174.6 million (€117 million) annually to its national e-government program, called IDARATI, according to the Oxford Business Group's Emerging Morocco 2007 report. The most controversial aspect of the government's high-tech upgrade is the push for biometric identity cards, an ongoing, $116.4 million (€78 million) project that's already behind its original deadline of early 2007.

Spearheaded by Direction Générale de la Sécurité Nationale, the country's national security service, the ID card is intended to help prevent fraud, illegal immigration and terrorism. The contractors that will manufacture and maintain the cards are U.S.-based Cogent Systems and French firm Thales.

After the cards have been distributed, residents will be fined up to $175 if they are unable to show their biometric ID upon request.


Morocco's automotive components segment has revved up over the past decade to reach more than $1.63 billion and employ more than 30,000 workers, according to the Association Marocaine Pour l'Industrie et le Commerce de l'Automobile.

With close proximity to the European market and strong logistics services, the Tangiers free trade zone has attracted automakers such as Volkswagen, General Motors and Fiat. Renault has already based part of its Logan car production in Tangiers and now the company plans to increase its role in Morocco's auto industry.

Together with its Japanese sister company, Nissan Motor Co., Renault signed a preliminary agreement last September with the Moroccan government for a manufacturing complex in Tangiers. The two companies plan to invest $822 million (€554 million) in the project, which would create 6,000 jobs.

The complex is expected to achieve an initial annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles, ultimately expanding to 400,000. Production would focus on exports and include Logan sedans and other cars for Renault, Nissan and subsidiary Dacia.


“It has made the Moroccans much more rigorous in the way they approach their projects,” Mr. AbiNader says.

“Even though [the project] might have a Spanish investment firm, they have Moroccan crews, they have Moroccan managers,” he says. “So there's been this creation of a multicultural project management ethic or model that's emerging in Morocco.”

Mr. AbiNader observes different approaches to costing of projects, for example. “[North Americans] try to be more precise, whereas Europeans have much more flexibility in pricing projects,” Mr. AbiNader says. “They're much more used to understanding the fluctuations in foreign exchange rates, in labor, in regulations. Those things will affect your cost, and there are times when you can't plan for that.”

With the launch of many large-scale development projects that will change the Moroccan landscape—as well as the expansion of all the off-shoring activities—project managers are essential more than ever before.


It's an aspect of project management that's been hard for some North Americans to reconcile in Morocco. “Yes, we want to have as fine a cost estimate as possible, but if you put it too fine in the contract, then you might drive some potential investors away,” Mr. AbiNader says.

Overall, the quality of project management in Morocco is definitely increasing, he adds. Large companies in Morocco are bringing in professors from other countries to conduct in-house project management training programs for employees.

“Morocco is taking this very seriously, in terms of building their capability for more project management,” Mr. AbiNader says. “I think the challenge for them is: How do you get the job experience and continue to build your next generation of project managers?”

Amine Maaouni is part of that next generation. The 23-year-old grew up in Rabat, and is now studying for a master's degree in project management at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., USA.

“The real estate industry in Morocco is probably the sector where project management is most notable,” he says, but adds that the field is still in its infancy.

“Because of the nature and the importance of larger scale, ongoing projects these past few years, people have started outsourcing project management, and seeking expertise and new skills from many international sources,” Mr. Maaouni says.

Even the organizational model has changed in Morocco, he says, pointing out that the government now forms specific project organizations to guide multifaceted projects from start to finish. The project to revamp the port in Tangiers, for example, is run by the Tangiers Mediterranean Special Agency.

“A single management source based on the model of a pure project organization is a much more efficient way to work,” Mr. Maaouni says. In the past, he explains, such projects would have been handled by at least three or four different organizations with divergent interests.

The shift is an encouraging sign of progress for Mr. Maaouni, who plans to return to Morocco after receiving his degree: “I really think that project management has a great future in Morocco.” PM

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